• 30 MAR 2024

Prime Minister’s Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Message 2024

Message to the nation from Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Dr The Honourable Keith Rowley on the occasion of Spiritual Shouter Baptist Liberation Day 2024.

Fellow citizens, every year as I extend Greetings to the Spiritual Shouter Baptist community on behalf of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, my family and myself, as Prime Minister, I reflect repeatedly on this religion and its founders — those spiritually inspired persons, those outstanding exemplars of defiance, courage, endurance, and resilience.

The history of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist is an emotional one. Its foundation is based on resistance to British colonial rule, and we should be reminded further that what we are celebrating today, as a public holiday, is rooted even deeper and larger in a historical experience that dates back some 500 years.

In many ancient societies, slavery was a common, but an oppressive practice.  In the 15th century, Portugal and Spain turned slavery into a commercial enterprise — transporting thousands of African slaves, across the Middle Passage to the Americas to meet the growing demands for labour on sugar, tobacco, coffee, rice, and plantations.

Britain later became the main operator and beneficiary, transporting eventually millions of slaves across the Caribbean and areas stretching from the southern tip of North America to the northern areas of South America in hundreds of built-for-purpose ships, which one historian later described as “squalid floating prisons.”

It is said that the slave trade grew alongside the development of the Plantations. Slavery later became an institution allowing Britain to entrench its authority over large portions of the Americas, and the Caribbean.

Dr Eric Williams, our country’s first Prime Minister, and noted Caribbean scholar wrote, “Slavery was not born of racism; rather racism was the consequence of slavery.”

Enslavement meant dehumanisation. Slaves had no legal rights. In North America, they were deemed three-fifths of a person. They were vulnerable to impunity; they could be murdered, their families separated, and subjected, on a whim, to demeaning punishment. All slave resistance was met with severe beatings, mutilations, burnings, hangings, and rapes.

One writer said that slaves were identified by just numbers, and names came later. For centuries, they existed as “only fragments”, which today their descendants are still trying to assemble and make whole.

It is against this centuries-old, historical context that we must appreciate the Spiritual Shouter Baptists today. The Faith must be commended for its resistance to the British colonial authorities; for insisting on the right of its followers to worship and to express the spiritual inspiration they felt deep within.

Today, (Saturday) the Spiritual Baptist faith will hold celebrations throughout the country. The public holiday is an expression of the country’s commendation of the struggle of the Spiritual Shouter Baptist Faith to establish the basic civil right — to worship.

Fellow citizens, let us celebrate alongside our Spiritual Shouter Baptist community.